DHD: Six takeaways from the SBC annual meeting
The Southern Baptist Convention had its annual meeting this week, and there was a lot of content and issues that were covered in the two days of sessions, as well as what was addressed beyond the actual sessions.
I did not go to Birmingham, so I can’t give an in-person description, but I did watch most of the sessions on livestream and discussed with those who did attend.
This week’s DHD offers my six takeaways from the SBC meeting.
1. Action against Sexual Abuse and Racism
Probably the biggest news of the whole meeting is the action that the SBC agreed to take, regarding issues of sexual abuse and racism that involve some churches in the SBC. Baptist Press reported the stances the SBC took against sexual abuse and racism among churches, which involve amending the SBC Constitution to consider churches reportedly involved in sexual abuse or discrimination based on ethnicity be “not in friendly cooperation” with the convention.
Also, Southern Baptist messengers approved to repurpose the Credentials Committee to make inquiries and recommendations of actions regarding instances of sexual abuse, racism and other issues that would call a church’s relationship with the SBC into question.
Since the SBC functions with the respect to the autonomy of the local church, these two actions demonstrate the limit the SBC is willing to go in handling these severely critical social issues of sexual abuse and racism.
Also, there is follow-up to confronting the sexual abuse crisis in the way of offering resources titled “Caring Well,” which were prepared by the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and are offered to Southern Baptist churches to utilize in the coming days. The Caring Well resources will help churches be prepared in preventing abuse and protecting the vulnerable. ERLC also will host a conference in October, which will meet in Dallas, that will address sexual abuse.
2. President Greear’s leadership
SBC President J.D. Greear did an excellent job overseeing the sessions. And he was consistently visible on the stage during much of the action. His presidential address was on point, emphasizing the importance of the Gospel above all other issues.
Greear’s demeanor throughout the meeting was perfect, as he handled all situations well and even provided appropriate light-hearted comments when needed.
Many were previously critical of Greear’s ability to lead, prior to the SBC meeting. For me, he squelched all the criticisms this week.
3. IMB Sending Celebration
One of the great moments of the Annual Meeting is the commissioning of International Mission Board missionaries. This would be a regret for personally not being in Birmingham because I am certain I could not fully experience what was happening in the convention center. This is one of those aspects where you could say it’s better to be in the stands instead of watching the game on TV.
However, having experienced previous Annual Meetings, I know the Sending Celebrations offer an aura of appreciation of the missionaries and their commitment to share the Gospel throughout the world.
You can read a great report on this year’s Sending Celebration that was written by my friend Julie McGowan.
4. Constructive panel talks
Something that is always present at any kind of a conference meeting is the array of panel talks. Some panel sessions are good; some can be overkill.
However, the panel talks I watched during the sessions were quite good with Greear moderating the panels. They discussed racial issues, secondary issues compared to the Gospel and women in ministry. All of them offered great instruction and perspective of these important topics of the SBC.
I recommend going to sbcannualmeeting.net, clicking on the “WATCH VIDEO” link and finding the videos that feature the panel talks. You will be impressed and educated.
5. Rummage’s sermon
My pastor Stephen Rummage delivered the annual sermon at the SBC meeting this year. In fact, I added the video of his sermon below. If you want to read about it, you can do so here.
I tried to embed the video of Pastor Rummage, but I did not know how to do that, so below is the direct link:
6. Resolutions run amok
Another element that happens every year is the report from the Resolutions Committee, which offers formal statements in response to many different issues and actions.
I do find these reports interesting, and I’m usually captivated by the dialogue involving questions, support, amendments between messengers and committee members. This year’s resolutions report went well over an hour and was one of the longest segments in the entire two-day meeting.
You can read BP’s report on this year’s SBC resolutions and notice one resolution in particular was controversial—resolution 9 which involved critical race theory and intersectionality. It was unfortunate that time was not allowed to entertain a motion to amend this resolution that would offer clear description of both critical race theory and intersectionality.
Albert Mohler even commented on the resolution in today’s edition of The Briefing:
“I did not want the resolution to say less than it said,” Mohler declared. “I wanted it to say more than it said. I wanted it to acknowledge more clearly the origins of critical race theory and intersectionality. I wanted it to state more clearly that embedded in both of those analytical tools is a praxis, that is a political extension. That’s abundantly clear in the origin of both intersectionality and critical race theory. It is also abundantly clear in how they function in higher education and public debate. It is true that both can be deployed as analytical tools. The problem is, as Christians understand, that analytical tools very rarely remain merely analytical tools.”
From my observation, it was interesting that this resolution was listed later in the report. One could conclude that maybe the Resolutions Committee ranked it near the end with the possibility that time would not permit further discussion on the floor, as many of the previous resolutions appear benign and more agreeable.
Another observation I have is I wonder if resolutions are even necessary. They have no binding aspect. They have no mandatory action behind their words. Most of the time, the resolutions report features people haggling over certain words in the resolutions.
Don’t get me wrong. As I already said, I find them fascinating to watch. But as it has proven in the past, sometimes these resolutions have a way to get the SBC in hot water, such as the one in the late ‘90s opposing Disney, which they eventually dismissed.
I’m just contemplating on whether or not it is worth it for the SBC to publicly declare resolutions.
I welcome feedback.